Whether you’re playing Santa for an outdoor enthusiast in your life, or just want to fill a stocking full of camping gear for yourself, the following nifty products make for great additions to your holiday shopping list.
Coghlan’s LED tent pegs: We love Coghlans! And I’ve tripped over my tent’s guy lines more times than I care to admit. Coghlan’s 10” heavy duty tent pegs now feature a single LED light for visibility at night. Just twist on, and you’ve got a nice glow around your tent. Just $3.99 for a pack of two at Amazon.
Light My Fire Swedish Fire Knife: I don’t know about you, but I definitely want something called a fire knife in my stocking. Light My Fire’s unique fire-starting knife really is all that: this camp knife comes with a plastic sheath and a high-friction rubber handle, and it creates its own spark via a FireSteel Scout, which twists into the knife’s handle when not in use. Get it on Amazon in one of five fun colors for $28. I also love Light My Fire’s meal kits, perfect for young backpackers.
Arka LED rechargeable lantern: This camp lantern by Industrial Revolution is compact, lightweight, and collapsible, perfect for camping and overnights in outdoor shelters like yurts and fire towers, where electricity may be scarce or nonexistent. Recharge the lantern via USB cable to your smart phone. Can be used as a flashlight or strobe light, too! Pick it up for $69 on Amazon. (See Tim’s review from earlier in the year here: Uco Arka lantern.)
Dublin Dog KOA collars: For the outdoor-loving dogs in your life, how about outfitting them with waterproof collars that don’t stink? Not even after months and months? Our two dogs have been sporting designs from Dublin Dog’s Trout line since summer, and I am sold! They won’t ever wear another type of collar. The KOA material repels dirt and grime, and the collars really do stay fresh-smelling. Pick one up at Amazon for under $30, depending on size.
Icebug ArchFlex Insoles: Talk about the gift that keeps on giving! I’ve been running and hiking with Arch Flex insoles since July, and while I’ve tried many insoles over the years, these are the ones I reach for. They’re slim, easy to get in and out of my shoe, and provide the right shock relief for my repetitive running and hiking movements. Pick high arch or low, plus shoe size. Find them on Amazon.
GRAYL Water Filtration Cup: If you have someone headed to a part of the world lacking potable drinking water, the new Grayl makes for a nice gift. Like other water purification bottles, the Grayl has its drawbacks, but is overall a solid choice for travelers who need access to filtered water all day, every day. The cup, which looks and feels more like a bottle, features a duel cylinder construction wherein the user filters water through the bottom of the inner cylinder via a carbon filter. Once you’ve given it a few practice runs, it’s easy to use, though be advised: until it’s well ‘worn in’, the cylinders can be hard to pull apart, due the the vacuum seal. (As I said, not without its drawbacks.) However, the Grayl is sleek and shiny, heavy but definitely portable, and features a nice open-close design. If using abroad, you’ll need to upgrade the filter to the ‘purifier’, but once you’ve done so, you’re good to go for 300 uses. Buy the Grayl on REI for $69.
Cocoon Ultralight Microfiber terry towel: I love Cocoon travel products! I have used their travel pillow and packing cube, but by far my favorite product is their microfiber towel. Perfect for backpackers, campers, and round-the-world travelers, the Cocoon is small, thin, and light, but still actually does the job intended…you know, actually dry your body. Set it outside to dry afterward, and it will be good to go again in no time. Pick it up for your travel or backpacking friend for under $35 on Amazon.
Liberty Bottle Works Topo bottle: I would say I use this 100% recycled aluminum USA-made bottle every day, but I can’t: the minute I got it, my teen son took it. I think he loves the topographical map design best (ours features Mt. Rainier) but it may be the straw or the easy to open and close flip top lid with carrying handle. Pick out the map your hiking loved one can relate to most for as low as $12 on Amazon. It’s also available at Backcountry.com.
The weather where you are might not be making you think about sandals, but if you’ll be taking a vacation to a hot place or you want a truly original gift idea, check out this Keen custom shoes offering.
The original Keen Newport sandals were a revolution that launched a company and they’re still super-popular for several reasons. They’ve comfortable, functional, cool, and protective of your toes. Plus they’re terrific for water activities like kayaking and river rafting. Now they can come in whatever color combination you want as well.
Keen gave me a code to try this process out and it was a pure delight. Well, for my teenage daughter anyway. I knew she’d go crazier with the choices than I would, so I let her loose on the Keen Custom page so she could make her own unique pair.
After picking her size, she chose from 20 strap colors. Then from 13 stitching colors. Then from 14 microfiber colors for the tongue and sides. After that the lining, from four choices. She chose the woven tab colors (from 7 options) for the two pull tabs, then picked from 10 bungee lace colors and 5 colors for the plastic pull tab at the end. Last was the outsole and midsole, which produced the only bit of whining: sorry kids, gray or black there.
It gets topped off with a yellow and black Keen logo no matter what, but it would take a math club contestant a few minutes to figure out how many combinations you can get from all that. It’s a lot of choices. She went back and forth a few times trying different options, which is easy to do on the intuitive website. Each time you change something, you see the result on the screen and you don’t have to ever hit a back button and start over.
At the top of the screen is how hers came out. Here’s another pair I mocked up with random choices. Obviously a much different look.
This process takes 2-3 weeks, so order today if you want them by Christmas. (To avoid that stress, print the custom page and buy a gift card for $130 instead.) The process was very smooth though, with Keen keeping us updated: a verification e-mail that pictured the shoes as we’d ordered them, another e-mail later that it was in process at the factory, then one when the shoes were on their way.
Sure, these cost more than a pair of regular Newports you buy off the shelf, but how much is it worth to have bespoke travel shoes like nobody else’s? For now anyway these don’t come in kids sizes, but the women’s sizes start at 5 and the men’s at 7. See more at the Keen custom shoes page.
The Response Fake TV Burglar Deterrent is a kitschy, yet surprisingly useful, security precaution that travelers can use when on the road. If you do not have a timer feature on your lighting system at home, this is the perfect device that is only a fraction of the cost of paying for a timer setting.
It essentially emits a flashing light mimicking the effect of someone watching TV. This is a great way to show that someone is at home, even if you are away to help in deterring thieves.
It uses very little power, but emits a bright enough light to appear as if someone is watching a large-screen, high-definition TV. It has random flashing lights so that there is no distinctive pattern, which truly makes it look as if the TV is on. I can even see this giving pets some comfort when people are away at work during the day.
Setting it up took just a few minutes, and for someone like me with little ability to construct anything successfully out of the box, this was a cinch.
I am often traveling to destinations where security issues can be a concern, and this would be a great item to tag along in my carry-on for those hotels where my room is on the first floor or where I do not want anyone entering while I am gone. For example, I had this with me when in West Africa, and I felt a bit more comfortable leaving the room since it always appeared as if someone were there.
The device has its own timer with seasonal settings that can adjust to the varying patterns of light in winter or summer. Disappointingly, the timer is sold separately, but is worth the extra cost. It is available for under $30 on Amazon.
If you readers could be a fly on the wall when I’m complaining about what’s wrong with my shoes months after I’ve started wearing them, you’d hear me bitching a lot about shoelaces. If all my shoes had Boa Technology systems on them, that would stop.
My main pet peeve about footwear companies is they put all this thought and effort into design and materials for the shoe itself, then treat the laces as an afterthought. (Way too many treat the insole as an afterthought too, but we’ll table that one for later). Even shoes retailing for $150 and up too often come with slippery, cheapo shoelaces that don’t stay tied without double-knotting them like you would for a first-grader.
At the last two Outdoor Retailer shows I’ve attended, I got invited to a lunch sponsored by Boa and checked out a bunch of shoes and boots that are using their technology. The systems use a continuous coated wire and a winding, locking turn wheel to control the tightness. Instead of a haphazard lacing system that is too loose in some places and too tight in others, this Boa system gives you precise control. And whatever you set it at, it stays there. No friction, no loosening, nothing to get wet or freeze.
This lacing system is surprisingly simple to use, but very effective. To loosen the shoes or boots, you pop out the circular knob and…that’s it. To tighten them, you simply push the knob in and turn it. As you can imagine, this is far faster and simpler than fumbling with laces during a hike along a precipice or fumbling with buckles when you’re snowshoeing through the woods with gloves on. And can you imagine how much easier a parent’s life becomes when a kid has this system instead of shoelaces? No matter how young, they can fasten this themselves. You can see a video demo here.
Many sport-specific brands are using Boa systems. The company was doing something really cool at that gear trade show though: taking attendees laces out of their shoes and rigging them up again with their superior system for people to pick up later.
For writers like us, they did the same with some new shoes, in my case for these cool Adidas kicks pictured below that I’ve been wearing around and getting comments on. Sorry, you can’t buy these, but you can get Adidas golf shoes with Boa lacing. Also running/trail shoes from Treksta or biking shoes from Specialized.
In the winter sports world, you’re seeing this system in more snowboard and ski boots from Apex, Scarpa, and Black Diamond. But you can apply this fastening to other products as well: Smith Optics is using it in helmets.
A lot of the products I saw in demos earlier this year are for this current winter season or the coming spring one, so keep an eye out as you’re browsing the shoes and boots at your local outdoor gear store. Once people experience this superior technology, they start bitching even more about their shoelaces, so you should see an amplification from the network effect as word of mouth spreads.
Unlike shoelaces, these systems come with a lifetime guarantee. See more at BoaTechnology.com.
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The Magellan SmartGPS is a step above most other navigation devices thanks to its wireless technology that incorporates data from sources like Yelp and Foursquare that ties in to you current location. A companion smart phone app is also available that allows users to easily access information and reviews on the nearest restaurants, hotels, shops, and other sites at the touch of a button making navigating the open road much easier.
My new car also features similar technology that is integrated into the stereo system itself, but I have found it clunky to use. Despite buttons along the edge of my steering wheel, it is still a distraction to use since it requires paging through multiple screens. Not so with this navigator, which has a much more user-friendly display; the app also makes it very convenient for me to use since I am more familiar with the swipe and type functionality of my smart phone.
This device also uses technology similar to iCloud allowing you to wirelessly sync, save, and share contacts and destinations between your devices including computers. This means your favorite spots, drives, or destinations are stored in your address book across all devices. I really liked this functionality since I was able to do research on my laptop before traveling and then access the data once on the road (or even on foot thanks to the app for my iPhone).
I stumbled upon a few new restaurants that I did not know about after reading positive reviews on Yelp through this device. Other information accessible through the device include real-time location-based traffic camera alerts, weather reports, lowest gas price information, traffic updates, and the best parking nearby.
The devices “junction view” gives clear graphical directions on highway interchanges, keeping you in the correct lane, while also updating current traffic conditions and warning of red-light or speed cameras. The Magellan SmartGPS combines social search and smartphone mobility with the opitimal performance of a dedicated GPS navigator. It is available from the Magellan website for roughly $250, but check prices online where you’ll usually find it for less.